When you mention low energy levels after treatment, a common reply is:
“We’re all tired sometimes”…
Yes, we are all tired sometimes &
No, this can in no way be compared to fatigue after cancer.
Cancer-related fatigue, also referred to as CRF, is different from normal tiredness regarding various aspects such as:
- CRF is not directly related to physical effort or movement;
- CRF hits you in an instant – you can be perfectly fine one moment and totally wiped out the next;
- CRF does not disappear when you sleep or rest – in fact, you might experience it most upon waking up.
- It can last for days in a row.
- CRF highly affects your cognitive capacities, more so than when you simply feel sleepy;
- CRF can make you physically sick, especially when you try to ignore it.
Over the years I have started to recognize a few signs of fatigue coming. For example, I notice I’m unconsciously reducing my walking speed or I realize I did not register the last minute(s) of a conversation. When I take action I’m sometimes able to prevent further collapsing.
My best tips to not make it worse when you feel extreme exhaustion taking over:
- Go to bed
Like, now. If it is in the middle of the day, make it a short power nap to not confuse your biological body clock. If it is past 20:00 I’d say put on a fancy pair of pajamas and call it a day. Why wait until it’s a ‘decent time to sleep’?
- Drop everything you are doing and take a break
Sit yo ass down! Simply stare ahead, watch people on the street, look at the birds in the trees, drink a cup of tea. Repeat as often as you need. You probably won’t be able to finish everything you had planned to do today anyway.
Some studies suggest yoga reduces fatigue. If you don’t like yoga, other light exercise or a relaxed walk may help.
Yeah, I know, nowadays mindfulness seems to be the solution to everything. Well, I don’t claim you will be full of energy afterward, but it is a proven way to relax both your body and mind. Find an app or Spotify list with a voice that works for you. I personally love visualizations and breathing exercises.
- Go outside
A breath of fresh air usually helps. Lie down in the grass, eat a sandwich in the park, sit down in your garden. If it’s cold or rainy and you don’t feel like going out: open a window. I remember when I received chemotherapy I always wanted all the windows to be fully opened. Nature helps and so does a cool breeze.
- Cancel or change appointments
Although super frustrating, there’s no shame in admitting that you can’t go to that party tonight. Maybe a friend wants to come over to your house instead? This is probably the most difficult one (at least for me) and I plan to write more about it soon ♡
Fatigue after cancer, it’s one of those invisible late side effects that have such an impact on life after treatment.
Does this sound familiar to you? How do you handle it? Let me know!
A note: I’m not a doctor and I don’t know your personal situation. If you experience extreme fatigue, ask your oncologist for advice.
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